Work inspiration with
Jessica Svendsen

My name is Jessica Svendsen and I am currently a designer at Apple. Previously, I worked at Pentagram in New York for Michael Bierut and I taught typography at Parsons The New School and Pratt Institute. Before New York, I lived in New Haven, Connecticut for eight years, receiving my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale.

How did you get started in design? What is a turning point in your professional career?

I was first introduced to design through letterpress printing. While I was an undergraduate at Yale, a couple of the college residences had letterpress studios in the basement and offered night classes. I ended up spending my evenings there for four years, printing and managing the studio. But design was only one of my extracurriculars in college, and my understanding of design history and design skills or techniques was largely self-taught. I designed posters for various departments and student groups, and finally as a senior, I enrolled in typography courses. After college, I worked and freelanced for one year, and then I enrolled in the MFA program in graphic design at the Yale School of Art.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work at your design studio all day long or mix a few activities?

My ideal day is more varied, where on any given day, I'll spend time designing, in critique, or at home, working and studying. I appreciate when creatives recognize and admit that they have a limited number of effective creative hours each day. After that threshold, ideas are weaker or execution is inefficient.

I definitely have a cap on effective creative output, and my work suffers if I'm stuck behind a computer for ten hours straight. When I step away from the work—by cooking dinner, practicing yoga, riding my bike—I have the time and space to approach projects differently, often with a new perspective.

Where does your work inspiration come from? (Do you believe in 'inspiration' at all)?

I am more preoccupied with fields outside graphic design—architecture, film, photography, literature. But travel, above all, consistently reshapes my worldview.

Where are your favorite places in your city or outside?

I still consider myself a New Yorker (despite my San Francisco sabbatical), and most of my preferred spots are in Brooklyn, with a few exceptions:

  • Brooklyn Bridge Promenade and Park
  • Cobble Hill
  • Four Freedoms Park and the Kahn-designed Memorial (and the tram ride over)
  • Judd Foundation in SoHo
  • Prospect Park
  • Sullivan Street Bakery

Who are the designers you admire most?

  • Robert Adams
  • Iris Apfel
  • Braulio Amado
  • Kelli Anderson
  • Ben Barry
  • Uta Barth
  • Saul Bass
  • Bernd and Hilla Becher
  • Alexander Calder
  • Sigrid Calon
  • Pablo Declan
  • Linda Van Deursen
  • Matt Dorfman
  • Charles and Ray Eames
  • Louis Kahn
  • Land
  • Karel Martens
  • Henri Matisse
  • Geoff McFetridge
  • Peter Mendelsund
  • Moniker
  • Michael Rock
  • Annabelle Selldorf
  • Amie Siegel
  • Truck Furniture
  • James Turrell
  • Matt Willey